In the face of 27 COP meetings, accompanied by 251 weeks of School Strikes for Climate along with the various actions by groups such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion. It would be decisively remiss to not point out that, in an ad verbatim quotation of Fondazione Prada, Everybody Talks About The Weather. Where this, research-catalysed exhibition, presently being staged in an 18th-century Venetian palazzo until the 26th of November, differentiates, is in its voracity to unflinchingly employ everything, from the strata tidemarks that chart the Grand Canal’s ascent to the more than 50 contemporary works it holds, to pose if we’re even having the right conversations in the first place.
“The project arose from the idea of taking weather as a starting point to highlight the urgency of climate change, empirically equating meteorology and climatology, and using the tools of art and science together” illustrates Miuccia Prada. “The goal is to understand the environmental crisis and its undeniable impact on our lives by drawing attention to, representing, and analysing meteorological phenomena. Climate is a global issue that influences the actions and destinies of people worldwide. Talking about the weather today, therefore, means talking and worrying about everyone’s future.”
Whilst this is a perspective, paralleled only by a sense of urgency, introduced to visitors by Curator Dieter Roelstraete and brought-to-life by New York-based studio 2x4. It’s the presence of in-depth scientific spotlights realised in collaboration with The New Institute Centre For Environmental Humanities, over 500 books, scientific publications, video materials and conversations with scholars and activists, that makes this showcase, spread out over two floors, so unerringly, one would say even forebodingly existential. For it’s part, this is something Raqs Media Collective’s must-see Deep Breath film (1999 / 2002), which follows three divers in the Augean Sea on a mission to find distributed letters to spell out ‘the forgetting of air’, only serves to reinforce. Not only because the production was filmed the summer before COVID, but because the piece, has been aptly positioned on the ground floor of the palazzo, a space designed for inhabitants to survive Venice’s annual flooding. In this respect, scientific research has demonstrated that over half (187) of the city’s ‘high water events’ have occurred over the past 30 years, whilst many have agreed that Venice will cease to exist within the next 75.
Framed by the blue hue which illuminates this level, are also other video and adeptly-dismountable works including Plastic Horizons (2014), a series envisaged by artist Dan Peterman which sees him superimpose strips of recycled plastic — alongside ten high-resolution, printed reiterations of eminent, historical paintings. Whilst Fondazione Prada’s heavy reliance on reproduced substitutes, to many, would appear odd, especially in the aftermath of this showcase’s predecessors, Cere Anatomiche and Recycling Beauty. Their inclusion in this chapter, speaks to the risks that the cultural sphere faces from an increasingly volatile environmental landscape.
Enveloping the ornate upstairs portego and also worth highlighting, are Vivian Suter’s canvases hung from a framework and left to swing gently as visitors walk by whilst Nick Raffel’s Fan (2022) remains deliberately innocuous to observers unless they take the time to look up. Both pieces, perhaps urge us to consider how attentive we are to our surroundings. After all, how can we be appreciative if we are not attentive? And if we are not attentive, how can we be protective? Such a narrative finds it’s home in this exhibition as much as it does in the climate emergency we are presently faced with.
It’s also one which is built upon in each of the rooms situated on either side of the portego, through their displaying of historical along with contemporary artworks, which contemplate climate conditions including melting, clouds and rain. An anonymous 1709 painting, for instance, depicts Venetians theatrically slipping and sliding across the frozen lagoon whilst diptychs by Chantal Peñalosa capture a cloud from each side of the Mexico-US border and a photograph by Hans Haacke chronicles the freezing, thawing and evaporation of snow from the roof of his studio. This transhistorical approach reminds us everyone is always talking about the weather, and inevitably our climate too - but how we are having these conversations should be set to evolve.